Monday, September 1, 2014

Second outbreak of Ebola in Congo and other Ebola news

This month's Nablopomo theme is Heal.  I'll get around to posting the usual entry about the theme later.  Right now, I'm going to focus on one aspect of that theme, health and disease, and the number one health story I'm covering in this blog is the Ebola outbreak.

I lead with this story from Reuters, which I first posted here as part of War, Death, and Destruction from Reuters for August 25, 2014.  Hey, I'm an environmentalist, I recycle.

Congo declares Ebola outbreak in northern Equateur province
Reporting by Bienvenu-Marie Bakumanya; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy
KINSHASA Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:02pm EDT
(Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province on Sunday after two out of eight cases tested came back positive for the deadly virus, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said.

A mysterious disease has killed dozens of people in Equateur in recent weeks but the World Health Organization had said on Thursday it was not Ebola.

"I declare an Ebola epidemic in the region of Djera, in the territory of Boende in the province of Equateur," Kabange Numbi told a news conference.
This is likely a second outbreak, not a spread of the original one.

Follow over the fold for Ebola news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Blair Mountain and Labor Day).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

'Breaking Bad' goes out on top

I opened and closed Emmy Awards update from Reuters by promising more Emmy coverage.
I promised more about tonight's awards in 'Orange is the New Black' and 'Cosmos' already big Emmy winners.  I'll follow through with that promise later.  Right now, I have two updates from Reuters on the ceremony that I've included in tonight's Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.
Stay tuned for more later.
Instead of writing something original, I'm going to be a good environmentalist and repurpose a comment I left on another diarist's Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

First, Reuters with Emmys exalt old favorites over TV's shiny newcomers By Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey in LOS ANGELES Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:07pm EDT.
(Reuters) - For all the talk about newcomers raising the game of television, the industry on Monday chose to bestow its top Emmys on the long-running shows "Breaking Bad" and "Modern Family" and long-time television actors who held off challenges from film stars.

"Breaking Bad," AMC's unlikely tale of a teacher-turned-drug kingpin Walter White, won the night's biggest honor, the Emmy for best drama series, for the second year in a row while lead Bryan Cranston took best drama actor for the fourth time in that role.

It was a nostalgic vote of sorts for the series after it ended on the fifth season with widespread acclaim and devoted binge-watching fans. It held off the ballyhooed HBO anthology, "True Detective," the bayou thriller starring Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey and fellow film star Woody Harrelson, who Cranston beat.
Tipsy Bartender celebrated the final Emmy win for the show by posting the recipe for How to make a Breaking Bad Blue Margarita - Tipsy Bartender on his Facebook page.

Here's one for all the Breaking Bad fans of the world....THE BREAKING BAD BLUE MARGARITA! Everything thing is blue to give it a truly illicit feel. This drink has some to the most unique ice ever; designed and colored to resemble meth! It's a devilishly good cocktail. It was created by Morgan from the blog "HostTheToast."
Hey, at least they talked about TV in addition to mixing the drink.

Follow over the jump for more Emmy coverage plus a sustainability-related story from the Video Music Awards.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bad and good news for gas prices over Labor Day weekend

Original at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

I concluded A great day for business as usual with an observation about local gas prices.
None of the neighborhood outlets have gone below $3.35 and the corner station actually made a brief sortie into No Man's Land, raising their price to $3.49, then dropping it within the day back to $3.35.  That reflects what I see on GasBuddy, which shows that the national average bouncing off a bottom between $3.42 and $3.43 with the Detroit average hitting $3.41 a few days ago and returning to between $3.43 and $3.44.  That makes the prediction I made last week look good.
Check back next week to see if the neighborhood outlets drop below $3.32 and head to $3.29.  I don't think it will happen next week.
So far, it hasn't happened and the retail and wholesale data indicate it isn't likely to happen this week either.
That was Tuesday night into Wednesday.  The next day, prices started rising.  My wife and I were driving around in Ruby and saw that the corner station was at $3.65.  Meanwhile the three stations down the street were still at $3.35. She now knows that she doesn't have to drive far to shop for gas.  Yesterday, the corner station was still selling regular for $3.65, so I figured that the other neighborhood outlets might have raised their price.  I got confirmation yesterday (today as I type this), as all three of them were now selling regular for $3.49.  I was right to expect that Labor Day would act as a floor on prices, in this case, one that prices would bounce off of.

That written, were the local stations too high or in line with their usual pattern of being up to a dime cheaper than the metro Detroit average?  GasBuddy indicates they are in line, as the Detroit average shot up to $3.50 yesterday.  The three stations down the street were right were just below the average, while the corner station was too high.  Sure enough, by the end of Friday, its price went down a notch to $3.59.

As for what next week holds in store, I expect prices will drop after Labor Day, just as they usually do.  For starters, the national average has barely budged, staying at $3.43.  Next, there is a local event, Arts, Beats, and Eats, that is keeping up demand and prices during the Labor Day weekend.  Once that is over, the floor will go down like a slow elevator, taking prices with it.

The combination of a gas price rise combined with the holiday weekend is exactly the kind of story local news outlets love.  Following my usual policy of "if it moves, it leads," I give WXYZ's Gas prices rising the honor of going first.

This report at least explains why Michigan is experiencing this price rise while the rest of the country seems to have avoided it.

WXYZ had plenty of company in covering this story.  Follow over the jump for the stories from MLive and the Detroit Free Press.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A billion dollar trash day

This morning, Julie Bass asked Oak Park is Rotting- Do You Think Anyone Will Plant Gardens?  She recounted her husband's visit to Oak Park (Julie and her family now live in Seattle) where he saw mountains of trash sitting on the curb after the flood.  I read that right after I hauled out the trash for what is supposed to be the first normal day of trash collecting after the flood two weeks ago.  Both of those reminded me that I had remarked on the aftermath of the flood in Heading Toward The Sidewalk at The Archdruid Report last week.
[W]hen I read the title, I thought of all of the ruined personal belongings headed to the curb and then the dump this week and last because of Detroit's latest experience with climate weirding, the record one-day rainfall that flooded out much of the metro area and made national headlines.  The mayor of Warren, Detroit's largest suburb, claimed that the city's residents had lost more than one billion dollars (Dr. Evil impression optional) in ruined personal property because of the backed up sewage.  I was lucky to have only experienced inconvenience, a tripling of my commute home to avoid the flooding and a delay of five days in my trash being picked up.  The image of ruined investors and brokers jumping out of windows didn't even occur to me until the end of the essay.  Oops!
That billion dollar figure came from the following WXYZ report: Damage estimate in Warren tops more than $1 billion.

I have an answer for the man asking what has changed over the past four years--the climate.  As I wrote in This was my drive home tonight:
I talked about climate change in both my lectures today, and pointed out how it's expressing itself as increased precipitation, including 2013 being the wettest year in Michigan history, 2013-2014 being the snowiest year in Detroit's history, or 2011 being the rainiest year in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo.
In addition, this month's flood resulted from the second highest single-day rainfall in Detroit history.  Welcome to four precipitation records in four years.

The WXYZ video was from two weeks ago.  Follow over the jump for updates on the total losses from MLive.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to school today

The fall semester begins for me today.  To mark the occasion, I present this informational article from the University of Connecticut that I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Shark Week) on Daily Kos: Coping with Back-to-School Anxiety By Carolyn Pennington on August 11, 2014.
As the summer begins to wind down and you start shopping for back-to-school supplies, don’t forget to equip your child with some good advice for making a smooth return to the classroom. Anxious feelings are common and expected during times of transition or change, and this can be especially true for children and teens going back to school or for first-timers starting kindergarten.

UConn Today asked internationally recognized child psychologist Golda Ginsburg for tips on how to handle those anxious feelings. Ginsburg, who recently joined UConn Health from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been developing and evaluating interventions for anxious youth for more than 20 years.
I'm an adult, not a child, and a teacher, not a student, but I'm just a touch anxious anyway.  Wish me and my students a good day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Will Burger King serve poutine now that it's bought Tim Horton's?

I included an article on the possibility of Burger King buying Tim Horton's in Politics and economics from Reuters for August 25, 2014, illustrated the entry with the above image, then made the following comment.
Investors and corporations may love this idea, but I'm pretty sure rank-and-file Americans do not.  It might be enough to make me give up Burger King.  As for Tim Hortons, well, they never were a U.S. company.
Two days ago, the purchase happened, as Reuters reported in Burger King to buy Canada's Tim Hortons for $11.5 billion, Reporting by Euan Rocha and Allison Martell in Toronto and Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Lisa Von Ahn on Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:38am EDT.
Aug 26 (Reuters) - Burger King Worldwide Inc (BKW.N) announced plans to buy Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc (THI.TO) for C$12.64 billion ($11.53 billion) in a cash-and-stock deal that would create the world's third-largest fast-food restaurant group.

With roughly $23 billion in combined annual sales, more than 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries and two strong, independent brands, the new entity would have an extensive global footprint and significant growth potential, the companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The companies had said on Sunday that they were in merger talks, and shares of both soared on Monday.
Someone who supports what passes for the Left in the U.S. played a surprising role in the deal.  Reuters again: Buffett puts shareholders ahead of patriotism in Canadian deal By Luciana Lopez in NEW YORK on Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:16pm EDT.
(Reuters) - Warren Buffett may be most famous for the billions of dollars he has made from investing but he is also well known as a cheerleader for the United States. The Oracle of Omaha routinely exhorts investors to put their money in America, "the mother lode of opportunity," as he wrote in his annual letter this year.

So Buffett's participation in fast-food chain Burger King Worldwide Inc's purchase of coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc – complete with relocation of Burger King's domicile to Canada – might at first blush raise questions about his patriotism.

Investors and tax experts say Miami-based Burger King's move to Canada through a so-called tax inversion will help curb its U.S. tax bill. Similar recent moves by other U.S. companies - mainly through the purchase of European companies - have drawn the ire of President Barack Obama, who suggested they are corporate deserters lacking economic patriotism.
Americans may be displeased at the tax inversion, but Sarah Kliff of Vox thinks Canadians will be politely sad if Burger King takes over Tim Hortons.
Burger King is in the midst of a potential takeover of Canadian coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons. Canadians, while still a mild bunch, are not thrilled with the idea.

"It's our brand," Holly Cosgrey, a 60-year-old Torontonian told Bloomberg News. "Timmy's is always trying new things, adapting, they always have good service, and you always get your coffee fast no matter how long the lineup is. Burger King may screw it up."

To understand what the Tim Hortons purchase means in the United States, you need to dig into to the arcane tax policies about inversions. But understanding what a takeover of Timmy's (as the chain is known north of the border) means to a Canadian is a story about culture and pride. It's about an American fast food company taking over a beloved institution older than the Canadian flag itself.
Kliff is not kidding about what a Canadian institution Tim Horton's is.  I dated a woman who lived in Ontario for a decade,* and Tim Horton's was where everyone went for coffee and donuts (and when smoking was legal in a restaurant, "coffee and a smoke").  About the only good thing I'd see out of the deal is that people in the U.S. outside of Michigan and a few other border states might actually get to experience Tim Horton's coffee and donuts.  Other than that, well, will Burger King ever serve poutine?   Probably not.  Too bad.  After ten years of visiting Canada, I learned to like poutine.

Above modified from a comment on Daily Kos.

*She was not a Canadian, but an American living in Canada, a "landed immigrant."  I understand she's moved back to California since we broke up.

A great day for business as usual

In Politics and economics from Reuters for August 25, 2014, I made this observation on the stock market.
If one of my readers had told me a year and a half ago that the S&P 500 would break 2,000, I wouldn't have believed them.  I would have been sure that the market would have topped out by now.  By the way, the markets went up today.  No profit taking yet.
Here's the story from Reuters: S&P 500 scores first close above 2,000; data helps By Chuck Mikolajczak in NEW YORK on Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:48pm EDT.
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Tuesday to lift the S&P 500 just a hair above the 2,000 mark, its first close above that milestone, after data that pointed to a brighter future for the economy.

Energy shares, which closely track the pace of growth, led the day's gain. The S&P energy index rose 0.5 percent and ranked as the best performer of the 10 major S&P sectors.

The S&P 500 hit an intraday high of 2,005.04, climbing above the 2,000 mark for the second straight day. On Monday, though, the benchmark could not hold on to that mark and ended at 1,997.92. With Tuesday's move, both the Dow and the S&P 500 have risen in 10 of the past 13 sessions, while the Nasdaq is up for 11 of the past 13 sessions.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 29.83 points or 0.17 percent, to end at 17,106.70. The S&P 500 gained 2.10 points or 0.11 percent, to close at 2,000.02, a record high. The Nasdaq Composite added 13.29 points or 0.29 percent, to finish at 4,570.64.

The Dow industrials had touched a record intraday high of 17,153.80 during Tuesday's session.
Two stories, one definitely good news and the other mixed depending on which side of the Atlantic one one lives, helped fuel this rally.  Follow over the jump for them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Politics and economics from Reuters for August 25, 2014

I wasn't done with the relevant stories from last night's Overnight News Digest: Death, Disaster, Good news for business, and the Emmys on Daily Kos with Emmy Awards update from Reuters and War, Death, and Destruction from Reuters for August 25, 2014.  I have one more themed entry left, all about economics and politics, including some business news that intersects politics and technology.

I'll begin with an article in the intersection between politics and economics, which was the third most read story on Reuters last night.

France's Hollande ejects rebel minister Montebourg from cabinet
By Ingrid Melander and Alexandria Sage
PARIS Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:45pm EDT
(Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande on Monday called for a cabinet reshuffle, evicting from his government rebel leftist ministers who had argued for an economic policy U-turn away from budgetary rigor.

The surprise move - which risks deepening the confrontation between Hollande and more left-wing lawmakers - came a day after outspoken Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg attacked euro zone powerhouse Germany for ruining the region's economy with what he called an "obsession" with economic austerity.

Montebourg did not wait for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to announce a new cabinet, which he is scheduled to do on Tuesday, before stepping up his attacks and declaring he and two other left-wing ministers would not seek roles in it.
I'm with the rebels--austerity is a bad idea.  There is a reason why I have an anti-austerity label on this blog.

Next, the fourth most read article on Reuters last night, which lies at the intersection of business and politics, specifically tax law.

Investors cheer Burger King-Tim Hortons 'combo deal'
By Euan Rocha and Solarina Ho
TORONTO Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:27pm EDT
(Reuters) - Investors in Burger King Worldwide Inc and Tim Hortons Inc applauded news of a potential merger between the two fast food chains, seeing both tax savings and strategic rationale for a combination.

The two companies confirmed late on Sunday that Burger King is in talks to acquire the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain, and that the combined entity would be based in Canada. Shares of Tim Hortons jumped 18.9 percent to close at $74.72 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, while shares of Burger King, which is majority owned by investment firm 3G Capital, rose 19.5 percent to $32.40.

Investors and tax experts said the main reason for Burger King to move its domicile to Canada is to avoid having to pay double taxation on profits earned abroad, as the company would have to do if it remained in the United States.
Investors and corporations may love this idea, but I'm pretty sure rank-and-file Americans do not.  It might be enough to make me give up Burger King.  As for Tim Hortons, well, they never were a U.S. company.

Follow over the fold for articles on the stock market setting another record high, Amazon buying Twitch, and today's primary elections.

War, Death, and Destruction from Reuters for August 25, 2014

I titled last night's news summary on Daily Kos Overnight News Digest: Death, Disaster, Good news for business, and the Emmys.  I already passed along the Emmy Awards update from Reuters and even that couldn't escape the specter of Death with the Robin Williams tribute, so it's time for the death and destruction.

First, stories about three of the four topics that Kunstler wrote about in this week's missive of DOOM, Chill Winds, Ukraine, ISIS, and Israel-Gaza.

Slim chance of progress as Russian and Ukrainian leaders meet
By Alexei Anishchuk
MINSK Mon Aug 25, 2014 5:16pm EDT
(Reuters) - Divided by mistrust and mutual recriminations, the Russian and Ukrainian leaders will hold rare talks on Tuesday that offer only a slim hope of progress towards ending five months of separatist war in Ukraine.

Since Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko last met on June 6 in France, Ukraine has turned the tide of the conflict and largely encircled pro-Russian rebels holding out in two cities in the east of the former Soviet republic.

But the diplomatic crisis has only deepened, especially since the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-held territory last month with the loss of 298 lives.
This was the most read story on Reuters last night.  My Ukrainian and Russian readers can make of it what they will.  And, yes, I have lots of readers from both countries.  Ukraine and Russia are top two non-U.S. sources of readers for the blog this month, and Russia is the largest foreign portion of the audience in the history of the blog; Ukraine is in eighth, and will pass France for seventh at current rates in a few months.

Follow over the jump for the stories about war, death, and destruction from Iraq, Gaza, Congo, and elsewhere that made headlines last night.

Emmy Awards update from Reuters

I promised more about tonight's awards in 'Orange is the New Black' and 'Cosmos' already big Emmy winners.  I'll follow through with that promise later.  Right now, I have two updates from Reuters on the ceremony that I've included in tonight's Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

'Fargo,' 'Normal Heart' win Emmys for TV miniseries, movie
By Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:22pm EDT
(Reuters) - "Fargo," the TV re-imagining of the Coen brothers' cult film, won best miniseries at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, while HBO's "The Normal Heart" earned best TV movie honors for its depiction of the early fight against AIDS.

"Fargo" gave FX Networks its first Emmy for a program, but actors from the critically acclaimed miniseries lost out on awards despite being heavy favorites, especially lead actor Billy Bob Thornton.

"Who else can I thank but Joel and Ethan Coen, who don't watch the Emmys," said "Fargo" creator Noah Hawley of the directors of the 1996 Oscar-winning film who granted him creative freedom to recreate the snowy psychological thriller.
In cosmic tribute, Emmys bid adieu to Robin Williams
Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken and Ken Wills
LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:09pm EDT
(Reuters) - With a lump in his throat and a somber tremble in his voice, actor Billy Crystal paid a cosmic tribute to Robin Williams at the Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, two weeks after the comedian died in an apparent suicide.

Crystal, a longtime friend of Williams who rose to fame in the same 1970s comedy circuit, remembered the madcap performer as "the brightest star in a comedy galaxy".

"It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in our lives," said Crystal.
And that's it for tonight's update.  Stay tuned for more later.